Guided sightseeing and ancestral tours of Scotland

Borders Journeys provide private and small group guided sightseeing and ancestral tours of Scotland specialising in Dumfries & Galloway and Scottish Borders. Your tailor-made ancestral tour will discover and connect you to your Scottish ancestors.

Borders Journeys provide exclusive private and small group guided tours of the Scottish Borders, Dumfries & Galloway and Northumberland
Borders Journeys provide exclusive private and small group guided tours of the Scottish Borders, Dumfries & Galloway and Northumberland

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Call to join special WW1 service at Edinburgh Castle

BBC article published on Tuesday 22nd July 2014

People from across Scotland are being invited to join a special service next month to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. A thousand free places are available to members of the public who do not have tickets for the Drumhead Service at Edinburgh Castle on 10 August.

The multi-faith commemoration will be held before a congregation of almost 9,000 people. The event will replicate services held on the front line 100 years ago.

It will be followed by a parade of military bands and guards down the Royal Mile to a replica Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Holyrood Park. The service will mark the start of a five-year programme of commemorations in Scotland.

Eight events from World War One will be remembered, including the start and end of the conflict; major battles including Gallipoli, Loos, Jutland and Arras; and domestic incidents such as the Quintinshill rail disaster and the loss of HMY Iolaire.

Click here to read the full article.

Scottish clan profile: Armstrong

Scotsman article published on Thursday 17th July 2014

The Armstrongs are a Border clan whose origins lie in Cumberland. 

The Armstrong name has a mythological origin, in which their heroic progenitor, Fairbairn, saves the King of Scotland in battle by lifting the king onto his own horse with one arm after the king’s horse was killed in battle. The family crest records this act of heroism that was to be rewarded with a grant of lands in the Borders and the famous Armstrong name.

The first specific reference locating them in Liddesdale, which would become their family seat, is in 1376. Liddesdale was also the seat of their unquestioned power in the region that allowed them to expand into Annandale and Eskdale to accommodate their growing population. It is reputed that by 1528 they were able to put 3000 horsemen in the field.

Click here to read the full article.

Scottish clan profile: Turnbull

Scotsman article published on Friday 11th July 2014

The origin of the Turnbull name was told by Hector Boece, in his History of Scotland. Boece tells the legend that during the Wars of Scottish Independence William of Rule saved King Robert Bruce by wrestling to the ground a bull that had charged at the King. 

The King rewarded William with the lands of Philiphaugh, now part of Selkirk, and dubbed Rule “Turnebull” (the “e” was later dropped from the name). The Lands that the Turnbulls came from was settled by Vikings in the 10th and 11th Centuries, giving the Turnbulls a very Norse look and being reported to be with great size, with many having blonde and red hair and blue eyes. Because of their open defiance to the English Crown, many Turnbulls turned into Trumbull, Tremble, Trimble and Trembley (as many went to France to continue fighting the English).

It has also been suggested that Turnbull is derived from the Old English “Trumbald” or French “Tumbald”, meaning “strong and bold”, or that Robertus de Turnbulyes, who swore fealty to King Edward I of England in 1296, could be the family father.

Click here to read the full article.

Alex Salmond: Who do you think you are?

Scotsman article published on Saturday 28th June 2014

Alex Salmond has met American relatives he did not know existed until a chance discovery during family tree research. The First Minister learned last year he had blood relations in the US who were descended from Salmonds who emigrated in the 1870s seeking a fresh start in the New World. It turned out the transatlantic adventurers were pioneers of the Wild West, two of them even becoming famous for their stagecoach driving skills.

Now, more than a century on, Mr Salmond has brought the two sides of his family together for the first time by meeting their modern-day descendants, mirroring the TV series Who Do You Think You Are? in which well-known figures trace their family trees. The First Minister, whose late mother, Mary, had a keen interest in her ancestry, held a private gathering with eight of his long-lost cousins at Holyrood on Wednesday night.

Click here to read the full article.

Billy Connolly set for Who Do You Think You Are?

Scotsman article published on Friday 27th June 2014

Comic Billy Connolly and Great British Bake Off star Mary Berry are among the familiar faces who will be delving back into their family history for a new series of BBC1’s Who Do You Think You Are? Also looking at their roots will be Mrs Brown’s Boys creator Brendan O’Carroll and the actresses Julie Walters and Sheridan Smith when the programme returns in the summer.

The programme, which launched in 2004, will reach its 100th edition during the series. The line-up of ten stars is completed by actors Brian Blessed and Martin Shaw, DJ and presenter Reggie Yates, actress Tamzin Outhwaite and model Twiggy. There will also be an hour-long edition of the programme looking back over the past decade, involving figures who have previously been featured including JK Rowling and Jeremy Paxman, who memorably let down his tough exterior to shed a tear.

Click here to read the full article.

Who Do You Think You Are? celebrates 10 years and 100th episode!

Who Do You Think You Are? article published on-line

Britain’s best-loved family-history series, Who Do You Think You Are?, returns to BBC One this summer to celebrate its 10th birthday and 100th episode. Over the past decade, the hugely popular genealogy show has told the moving and heartfelt stories behind 90 famous faces, tracing their ancestry, discovering family secrets and surprises with tales of poverty and prosperity, love and loss, war, immigration and struggle.

This year, the glittering line-up features 10 more well-loved stars: award-winning actress Julie Walters; comedian and actor Billy Connolly; star of British Bake Off Mary Berry; acting legend Brian Blessed; actress Sheridan Smith; comedian/actor and the man behind the hugely successful Mrs Brown’s Boys, Brendan O’Carroll; actress Tamzin Outhwaite; presenter and DJ Reggie Yates; actor Martin Shaw; and model and actress Twiggy. From murder to bankruptcy, ice-cream selling to corset making, revolutionary land wars to syphilis, the new series reveals more extraordinary stories from our celebrities’ families.

Click here to read the full article.

Mother’s letter to soldier son in WWI exhibit

Scotsman article published on Friday 27th June 2014

A small batch of letters written by a mother in Aberdeen to her son serving on the front line in the First World War is among the items to be displayed at Edinburgh’s National Library of Scotland as part of its centenary exhibition marking the First World War. The letters have remained unopened since the day they were posted because George Buchanan Smith never lived to be able to read them. The Gordon Highlander was among the 60,000 British soldiers who died in the Battle of Loos in September 1915 and his letters were subsequently returned to the family marked “killed in action.”

This is just one of many remarkable, but largely forgotten, stories told in a major exhibition at NLS that marks the centenary of the outbreak of the war by looking at what happened through the eyes of the people who experienced it.

Behind the Lines: Personal Stories from the First World War runs from 27 June to Armistice Day, 11 November 2014 at the National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. Entry is free.

Click here to read the full article.

Museum unveils new Commonwealth war exhibition

Scotsman article published on Monday 16th June 2014

A new exhibition this summer at the National Museum of Scotland tells the stories of the Scottish diaspora and the war experiences of Commonwealth nations during the First World War.

Common Cause: Commonwealth Scots and the Great War coincides with the Commonwealth Games and the Year of Homecoming as well as the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

The exhibition will show how objects can reflect plural identities and profound war experiences, from the Victoria Cross presented to an Ulster Scot who fought for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to the springbok ‘Nancy’, mascot of the 4th South African infantry (also known as the South African Scottish).

Click here to read the full article.

Fragmented WW1 East Lothian family reunited

BBC article published on Sunday 1st June 2014

The story of an East Lothian family devastated by World War One is being remembered in Haddington this weekend. A book about the family’s story has been published and a plaque is being unveiled in the town.

The story of the Cranstons is a heart-breaking one. Of 11 children in the family, seven of the boys went off to World War One. Four died, two were horribly wounded and only one returned unscathed. Feeling there was no future for them in Scotland, many of the survivors left for Australia. But this was not a story that was talked about in the wider family.

Stuart Pearson has travelled from Sydney in Australia to remember his family members who went to war. Looking at a family group picture from 1908, Mr Pearson says: “Within 12 years from that photograph, where you have mother and father and 11 children staring out at the camera, only one person is left in Scotland. Everyone else is dead or departed.”

Click here to read the full article.

World War One: Thomas Highgate first to be shot for cowardice

BBC article published on Sunday 31st May 2014

He was caught, tried and shot “as publicly as possible” within 48 hours, in the first few weeks of World War One. The 19-year-old soldier’s grave is lost and his name is not on the war memorial in his birthplace. Thomas James Highgate was the first British soldier to be executed for desertion in WW1. His fate still provokes fierce emotions and difficult questions.

Terence Highgate, great-nephew of Thomas, has been campaigning for years to clear his name. He feels the village memorial, and its reference to a nearby chalk cross, make his case.

“It says; ‘Shoreham, Kent, remember as you look at the cross on the hill, those who gave their lives for their country 1914 – 1918′,” said Mr Highgate. “He was one of them and his name should be on there.”

After initial clashes at the Belgian town of Mons in August 1914, the British army was forced into a two-week, exhausting, retreat.

Click here to read the full article.

Wills of Scots soldiers who died in wars published

Scotsman article published on Tuesday 27th May 2014

The last wishes of more than 30,000 Scottish soldiers who died in conflict are being published online as part of the centenary of the First World War. The National Records of Scotland database includes the wills of soldiers from the First and Second World Wars, the Boer War, Korean War and other battles between 1857 and 1964.

The First World War makes up the majority of the records with 26,000 wills from Scottish soldiers, including some with famous relatives. One of the wills is of Private John Feeley who served in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and died during the Battle of Arras in April 1917.

Researchers discovered that he is the great-great-grandfather of musician Paolo Nutini. He left all of his property and effects to his wife, Annie, who lived until 1964. His will reads: “In the event of my death, I give the whole of my property and effects to my wife Mrs Annie Feeley, 12 Barr St, Paisley.”

Click here to read the full article.

Wills of Scots soldiers go online

BBC article published on Tuesday 27th May 2014

The wills of 31,000 Scottish soldiers are being made available online as part of commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. The poignant documents include the last wishes of 26,000 ordinary Scottish soldiers who died in the Great War.

Among the records are the wills for ancestors of some famous Scots. These included the great-great-grandfather of pop star Paolo Nutini and the uncle of actor Brian Cox.

Click here to read the full article.

The Duchess, the Highland Clearances, the housekeeper … and a story to make you weep

Sunday Herald article published on Sunday 25th May 2014

Essay of the week by Tessa Boase

I had come to the Staffordshire Record Office to try to piece together the ghost of a story – a story in which a vulnerable servant fell foul of an immensely powerful regime.

I’d been tipped off about a bundle of letters buried within the vast archive of the Sutherland estate concerning one Mrs Doar, housekeeper to the first Duke and Duchess of Sutherland – and her brutal ejection in 1832 from Trentham Hall, the family seat at Stoke-on-Trent.

This sounded perfect material for my book The Housekeeper’s Tale. One working woman – loyal, obedient, faceless – enabling the sumptuous lifestyle of Britain’s wealthiest, most influential and most detested family of the day. I was particularly keen to get to the bottom of Mrs Doar’s disgrace, as this story had contemporary resonance: mention the Sutherlands and there is still a visceral reaction. For all their tentacles of influence throughout the British Isles – from canal building to art collecting, state diplomacy to herring fisheries – they are remembered in Scotland for one thing only: the Highland Clearances.

Click here to read the full article.

Sir Richard Branson’s Edinburgh roots uncovered

Edinburgh Evening News article published on Wednesday 21st May 2014

Sir Richard Branson has spoken of his delight after research revealed his great-great grandfather was a hard-working Edinburgh Church Minister with a strong work ethic, as Kaye Nicholson finds out.

Famed for his voracious appetite for work and remarkable achievements from a young age, he traversed the globe and inspired those he met. The remarkable life story of Reverend Charles Jenkins may be largely forgotten in his native Edinburgh, but it deserves to be celebrated in its own right – and offers an intriguing insight into where Sir Richard Branson may have got his enterprising character and work ethos.

For the kirk minister was the great-grandfather of the Virgin tycoon who today is worth £3 billion, owns his own Caribbean island and plans to venture into space. Sir Richard’s humble family links to the Capital – and a manse in Goldenacre – were unknown even to the billionaire businessman himself. Until now. The 63-year-old businessman is proud of his Scottish roots and spoke of his Edinburgh-born maternal grandmother, Dorothy Huntley-Flindt, nee Jenkins, during a recent visit to the city.

Click here to read the full article.

VE Day: Who were the thousands of Scots laid to rest far from home?

BBC article published on Thursday 8th May 2014

To mark the 69th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day BBC Scotland has created an ONLINE DATABASE of 21,740 of the 57,000 Scots who died during World War Two.

Etched into sun-seared stone, the names of hundreds of Scots can be read on the seemingly endless rows of headstones criss-crossing the small cemetery in northern Egypt. Names like Bruce, Cameron, McCallum, and Stewart appear alien in a landscape so different to that of their homeland.

El Alamein is now the final resting place for 7,240 soldiers – approximately 498 of them Scottish – who lost their lives fighting the Axis forces in North Africa during World War Two. The names of another 423 Scots, who have no known grave, can be found on the panels marking the entrance to the cemetery.

But headstones and memorials like these which commemorate Scotland’s war dead are not unique to Egypt – they can be found worldwide from Albania to Greece, from Hungary to Zimbabwe.

Click here to read the full article.

Flanders Black Watch memorial statue unveiled in Ypres

BBC article published on Saturday 3rd May 2014

A statue of a Black Watch soldier has been unveiled in Belgium to mark the centenary of World War One. The bronze statue, designed by Edinburgh sculptor Alan Herriot, was installed in front of 300 regimental veterans at Black Watch Corner. It honours the 8,960 Black Watch officers and soldiers killed and more than 20,000 who were wounded in the course of World War One.

The ceremony, near Ypres, is the first Scottish event of the commemorations. The statue, which was made in Scotland and shipped to Belgium last month, depicts a Black Watch sergeant in a World War One fighting uniform of kilt, jacket and bonnet. He carries a Lee Enfield rifle with an 18-inch bayonet.

A lone piper played as guests, including Dundee Lord Provost Bob Duncan, Angus Provost Helen Oswald, and a large group of Black Watch veterans led by Major Ronnie Proctor, attended the event.

Click here to read the full article.

Longest-separated twins find each other

BBC article published on Friday 2nd May 2014

Imagine delving into your family history and discovering you have a twin. That’s what happened to Ann Hunt, a 78-year-old, who had no idea she had a sibling at all until last year. Now she and twin Elizabeth Hamel have met for the first time since they were babies – setting a new world record.

“Lizzie, Lizzie, how lovely,” said Ann when she finally got to hug her sister.

“How lovely to see you in the flesh,” said Elizabeth.

Last April, Elizabeth, a 78-year-old from Albany, in the US state of Oregon, was shuffling through her mail when she saw a letter from Aldershot, UK – the town where she was born. “I saw Aldershot, ooh, I did a double-take on that,” says Elizabeth. “I opened it up and looked at it, and my eyes popped out my head.”

“I am writing to you as I am searching for a family connection,” the letter began. Elizabeth knew exactly who this was about, and minutes later she was on the phone to the UK.

Click here to read the full article.

Dumfries woman finds message in bottle from 1960s

Scotsman article published on Friday 18th April 2014

For more than five decades, its journey has been a mystery known only to the tides and currents of the Solway Firth. But now, a message in a bottle penned by a schoolboy in the 1960s has been discovered – just yards from where he dropped it into the waters of the Kirkcudbright coastline.

Residents in the Dumfries and Galloway community are being asked to rack their brains to track down the sender of the message. Only those with a long memory are likely to be of assistance, however – the sender penned the note in 1961, when John F Kennedy took up residence in the White House and Yuri Gagarin ­became the first man in space.

The author, one George ­Grierson, was five when he threw the bottle into the firth, in the hope it would one day reach a far-flung island on the other side of the world.

Click here to read the full article.

Next of Kin: Exhibition reveals families’ mementoes from World War One

BBC article published on Thursday 17th April 2014

A new exhibition explores the impact of World War One on thousands of Scots, both in service and back home.

The National War Museum’s “Next of Kin” exhibition shows how the war affected them by displaying treasured objects kept by those who served and their families. The items on display include letters, medals and photographs as well as other, more unusual items.

The exhibition opens at Edinburgh’s National War Museum on 18 April. It will stay there until March 2015 when it will go on tour across a number of venues in Scotland until 2017.

Click here to read the full article.

BBC genealogy show heading to Scotland for Homecoming

Herald article published on Saturday 12th April 2014

The world’s largest genealogy showcase is coming to Scotland for the first time for the  country’s year of culture, sport and heritage. Organisers have managed to revive a plan to stage the BBC spin-off Who Do You Think You Are? Live show in Glasgow for Homecoming 2014, with up to 18,000 people expected to take part.

Last year the show was shelved, but a deal has been reached after talks between the Scottish Government and organisers and producers Immediate Media.

Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said it would help firms “tap into the ancestral tourism market gold mine this year”.

The event is scheduled for an August slot in the year-round celebrations, which include ancestral events such as Bannockburn Live in Stirling in June, the Highland Homecoming in Inverness in September and October and clan gatherings throughout the year, as well as the Ryder Cup Golf Championships in September.

Click here to read the full article.

Pensioner meets brother and sister after 70 years

Scotsman article published on Wednesday 9th April 2014

A Scottish pensioner has been reunited with his long-lost brother and sister for the first time in 70 years. Grandfather William Rae, of Clochan in Moray, grew up with a foster family and spent decades trying to trace his roots. Now Mr Rae, 72, has met younger brother Ian, 69, who lives in Bristol, and sister Jean, 67, from Falkirk, for the first time in their adult lives.

The former marine, who has eight nieces and nephews he never knew about, said yesterday: “It’s wonderful. It has taken many years, but we’ve finally made it.” William’s luck changed after his stepdaughter, Christine, researched the ancestry of the family. She achieved impressive results with the help of an  Aberdeen-based amateur genealogist, who used his birth  certificate to start a web search for his long-lost family.

William said: “My stepdaughter was the real genius here. I can’t even switch on a computer.

Click here to read the full article.

Sutherland’s Rosal clearances township ‘to be protected’

BBC article published on Monday 7th April 2014

Land with strong associations to the Highland Clearances will continue to be managed by public body Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS). FCS had sought to sell Rosal Forest in Strathnaver, Sutherland, after first offering it to the local community.

But in October, Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse requested the land be withdrawn from sale because of the its historical significance.

A township at Rosal was cleared of its inhabitants in the 19th Century. They were forced to leave to make way for large-scale sheep production.

Some land near Rosal will be sold off and some of the money raised invested in the creation of new woodland at Sibster in Caithness. Funds will also go towards a starter-farm for new farmers at Achnamoine near Halkirk, also in Caithness.

Click here to read the full article.

Victorian strangeness: Grave tale of daughterly love

BBC article published on Saturday 29th March 2014

On the weekend of Mothering Sunday, author Jeremy Clay tells the singular story of a dying wish, a dutiful daughter and a mum with two graves – 4,000 miles apart.

Claire Taylor was as good as her word. She’d made her promise, and she was going to stick to it. And so, on a spring day in 1891, she set out from her home in Midwestern America to honour her mum’s dying wish. It wasn’t a simple undertaking. For a start, there was the matter of an 8,000-mile round journey to Europe and back. And then… well, then there was the contents of her luggage. Dr Taylor was travelling with three ebony cases, each numbered and bearing a single-word inscription in silver-headed nails: Mother. In one, was her mum’s heart, in the second, her feet, in the last, her hands. All had been pickled for three years in alcohol.

Click here to read the full article.

New project to release the 1939 Register for the first time online

Findmypast article published on Thursday 28th March 2014

Findmypast is thrilled to announce a new project to release the 1939 Register, which will see 40 million wartime British records published online within the next two years.

In the most anticipated family history development since the 1911 census, findmypast are working in association with The National Archives to provide the only complete overview of the population between 1922 and 1950.

Click here to read the full article.

World War One: Skye’s Band of Brothers

BBC article published on Monday 24th March 2014

In World War One, friends signed up and served together, shoulder to shoulder. One burst of machine gun fire could hit scores of men from the same village and destroy a community. Portree on Skye lost 10 men in a single night near the French town of Festubert in 1915. There is a war memorial in Portree harbour with 104 names on it, the final reckoning from four years of industrial warfare.

Most of the men had grown up in a remote, Gaelic-speaking community of just 1,000 people. Skye historian Murdo Beaton says the poverty on the island was one of the reasons so many men ended up in army.

A territorial army force was set up on Skye in the years before the war and Mr Beaton says: “The fact they got paid for this was a great inducement to sign up and they got a fortnight’s camp in the summer time which was, for them, like a holiday away from home.”

Click here to read the full article.

Did Craiglockhart Hospital revolutionise mental healthcare?

BBC website

Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh was used throughout World War One for the treatment of soldiers suffering from shell shock. The famous war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen were treated at Craiglockhart. Sassoon survived the war however Owen was killed on 4th November 1918, one week before armistice was declared.

Click here to read the full article.

War Poets Collection and Exhibition.

Soldiers killed during WW1 named via DNA from relatives

BBC article published on Saturday 22nd March 2014

Ten soldiers who died in World War One and whose bodies were found in France five years ago have been named after DNA analysis of samples from relatives. Since the discovery of the bodies in 2009 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been tracking down potential relatives in the hope of identifying them.

The remains were spotted during construction work near the French village of Beaucamps-Ligny. They were found alongside five other bodies which are yet to be named.

All the soldiers were with 2nd Battalion The York and Lancaster Regiment, and are believed to have died in battle on 18 October 1914. The men are due to be given a funeral with full military honours in October, while investigations continue to try and track down relatives for the remaining bodies.

Click here to read the full article.

Irish woman’s search finds her birth mother close to home

BBC article published on Wednesday 19th March 2014

When Aoife Curran was 18 she asked her adoptive father, Micheal, if he would help her track down her birth mother. After years of searching, they found her living near their Dublin home in the Republic of Ireland. It turned out the two women had been crossing paths for years – completely unaware they were mother and daughter.

Now 31, Aoife has written a book about the search. Aoife and Micheal spoke to BBC News about their startling voyage of discovery.

Click here to watch Aoife’s interview.

Military farewell to WWI casualties

The Courier article published on Friday 14th March 2014

Twenty British soldiers killed in action during the First World War have finally been laid to rest with full military honours, almost 100 years after they died. The soldiers who perished in the Battle of Loos in 1915 were found in 2010 during clearance work for a new prison near Vendin-le-Vieil, north of Arras, in France.

Only one of the troops discovered has been identified – Private William McAleer, of the 7th Battalion the Royal Scottish Fusiliers, part of the 45th Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Division. Born in Leven, Fife, 22-year-old Pte McAleer died shortly after the battle began and he was identified due to his body being found with his small home-made metal ID tag. Little is known about Pte McAleer but it is known that his father was a miner who died in a pit accident, and his mother later remarried.

Among the other soldiers who died and were found at the same time were a Northumberland Fusilier, another six Royal Scottish Fusiliers and a member of the York and Lancaster Regiment.

Click here to read the full article.

WW1 dead are reburied 100 years on

BBC article published on Friday 14th March 2014

Twenty British soldiers have been reinterred in northern France, almost a century after they were killed in action during the 1915 Battle of Loos. Their remains were uncovered in 2010, during construction work near Vendin-le-Vieil, north of Arras.

It has been possible to identify just one of the men – the only one found with an identity disc. He was Pte William McAleer, from the 7th Battalion the Royal Scots Fusiliers, who came from Leven in Fife.

All 20 soldiers were buried with full military honours at the Loos British Cemetery. The 19 interred as soldiers “Known unto God” included a Northumberland Fusilier, a further six Royal Scots Fusiliers, a member of the York and Lancaster Regiment, and two Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. No military unit has been identified for nine of the men.

Click here to read the full article.

Scale of Viking ancestry uncovered

BBC article published on Monday 10th March 2014

Around one million Britons can claim direct descent from Vikings, according to a new DNA study.Men from the far north of Scotland were most likely to provide a direct match with almost a third (29.2%) of the men from the Shetland Islands testing positive for Viking blood.

Researchers compared Y chromosome markers, which are inherited from father to son, from more than 3,500 men to six DNA patterns rarely found outside the Norse warrior’s native Norway and Sweden. Other areas that scored highly included the Orkney Islands (25.2%), Caithness (17.5%) and the Isle of Man (12.3%). The researchers found around one in 33 men across the UK, or 930,000, were a direct match.

The study, commissioned to coincide with the launch of the new series of the US TV show Vikings on the Amazon Prime Instant Video streaming service, only tested men whose grandfathers had lived in the same areas.

Click here to read the full article.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014 Speakers’ Handouts

Speakers’ handouts or slides presented at WDYTYA? Live 2014 have been published on the Society of Genealogists website.

WW1 soldiers’ wills go online to mark centenary

BBC article published on Monday 24th February 2014

The last wishes of 26,000 fallen Scottish soldiers will be made available online by the National Records of Scotland. The project is part of commemorations to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. It aims to help increase public knowledge of the conflict and the lives of the soldiers who fought in it.

Wills from soldiers across all of Scotland regiments who fought in the conflict will be made available. Among the 26,000 individual wills are 2,584 from the Gordon Highlanders, including those of privates Alexander Craig and John Wood from Portlethen, Aberdeenshire. Privates Craig and Wood were both born into fishing families, but when war broke out in August 1914 they joined the army, along with many other men from their coastal community. Wood served in the 1/5th Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders while Craig was in the 1/7th battalion.

Click here to read the full article.

Project honours Scotland’s First World War dead

Scotsman article published on Monday 24th February 2014

Prince Charles has chosen a 20-year-old former royal servant from Deeside who never returned from the Western Front to be a focal point for a major project honouring Scotland’s First World War dead. The prince selected Private Robert Duguid, who had been a labourer at Birkhall on the Royals’ Balmoral Estate, as someone who was “typical” of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the conflict.

Pte Duguid’s name is read each Remembrance Sunday along with those of 27 other First World War dead on the Crathie War Memorial between Balmoral Castle and Crathie Kirk, where the Royal Family worship. He enlisted in the 7th (Dee-side) Battalion The Gordon Highlanders at Banchory in March 1915. The Highlanders saw some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict including at the Somme, Ypres and Ancre. Still a teenager, Pte Duguid arrived in France eight months after enlisting and was killed in action at Arras on 29 May, 1917. How he died is unclear.

Click here to read the full article.

Tunes of glory: heroism of Scots pipers reprised

Scotsman article published on Sunday 23rd February 2014

Wherever Scottish soldiers have fought in battle, the strains of the pipes have been heard urging them to victory and striking fear into enemy hearts. Now the story of the pipers of the First World War is being retold, to celebrate the brave men who so often led the fight.

More than 2,500 pipers served, of whom 500 were killed and more than 600 wounded in places such as Ypres, the Somme, the Battle of Loos and Gallipoli. Many were in their 50s and also acted as stretcher bearers carrying the wounded from the fray. Some were awarded honours including the Victoria Cross and the Croix de Guerre.

The Germans, realising the vital role the pipers played spurring on attacks, even allocated snipers to kill them.

Click here to read the full article.

‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ Scotland bound

VisitScotland Press Release published on Tuesday 18th February 2014

Live show comes to Glasgow as part of Homecoming Celebrations

Ever wondered how you came to have the poetry skills of Robert Burns or the artistic flair of Charles Rennie Mackintosh?  Or do your roots lie further afield in Australia, Canada or Europe? 

2014 is the year to find out – tracing your ancestors and discovering your family history just got easier now that the world’s leading family history event, Who Do You Think You Are? Live is coming to Scotland for the first time as part of the Year of Homecoming celebrations.

From beginner to experienced researcher, locals and visitors to Scotland will have the perfect opportunity to discover their family ancestry at major show, Who Do You Think You Are? Live, which will take place at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow from Friday 29 to Sunday 31 August, 2014.

Click here to read the full press release.

Graveyards set for new life as visitor centres

Scotsman article published on Sunday 16th February 2014

They are treasure troves of Scottish history which have lain weather-beaten, neglected and largely unloved for centuries. 
But now the nation’s historic graveyards are set for a revival under plans to hand them over to communities to help run and promote them as visitor attractions. Little-known memorials, forgotten local heroes and mysterious carvings will be recorded and championed for the first time across the country.

It is hoped a network of campaign groups and an army of volunteers will also make significant new discoveries, secure the future of under-threat sites and help showcase significant final resting places. Rescue plans being developed for historic cemeteries will also tackle dangerous gravestones, crumbling and neglected memorials, and long-running antisocial behaviour problems. It is anticipated they will also be transformed through the development of new tourist trails, wildlife projects, cultural performances and events, and visits from school parties.

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Mystery of unsent Orkney WW1 letter solved

Scotsman article published on Wednesday 12th February 2014

A mystery letter penned by a WWI sailor stationed in Orkney – known as “Your Bluejacket Boy” – has finally found its rightful home almost a century after being first written. Amateur detectives at Orkney Library and Archives tracked down the family of the letter’s author who had only signed it by his nickname.

The letter was written in 1916 by a young sailor to his family in Llanelli, Wales. It was sealed and bearing a stamp when it was found 64 years later behind a fireplace in Bridge Street, Kirkwall. It was addressed to a John Phillips in Carmathenshire, South Wales, but he never received it.

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Oldest Inverness war memorial restored

BBC article published on Tuesday 28th January 2014

Specialists are cleaning up the oldest war memorial in Inverness after complaints that some soldiers’ names on it are unreadable. Moss and algae on the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders’ Memorial in the city’s Station Square had severely discoloured the stonework. Workers began cleaning the statue this morning using high-powered jet sprays.

Campaigners are delighted the action is being taken, particularly during the Year of Homecoming when the Highlands expect a large influx of tourists, many from overseas who may be researching their family history. The monument was put up in 1893 to mark the centenary of the Cameron Highlanders and later became a war memorial for campaigns in Egypt and Sudan. It bears the names of 142 soldiers from Inverness and surrounding areas who lost their lives in these conflicts.

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Birth, marriage and death records to go online

BBC article published on Tuesday 14th January 2014

Diaries from British soldiers describing life on the frontline during World War One are being published online by the National Archives.

Events from the outbreak of war in 1914 to the departure of troops from Flanders and France were recorded in official diaries of each military unit. About 1.5 million diary pages are held by the National Archives and a fifth have been digitised so far. The project is part of the government’s World War One centenary programme.

Each unit in World War One was required to keep a diary of its day-to-day activities. The first batch of 1,944 digitised diaries detail the experiences of three cavalry and seven infantry divisions in the initial wave of British army troops deployed in 1914.

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Birth, marriage and death records to go online

Scotsman article published on Tuesday 31st December 2013

Historical Scottish birth, marriage and death records will give a glimpse of the past when they go online for the first time tomorrow. Almost 222,000 images of birth records from 1913, marriages from 1938 and deaths from 1963 will be available to researchers from January 1.

They highlight the way Scotland’s population has changed over the past century, growing from 4.73 million in 1913 to 5.31 million in 2012.

In 1913 there were 120,516 births compared to 58,027 births last year.

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Diaspora tapestry booked for nationwide tour

Scotsman article published on Monday 30th December 2013

A nationwide tour has been announced for a vast new work of art which is being created by descendants of Scots in 25 countries around the world. East Lothian-based artist Andrew Crummy, who was behind previous tapestries charting the story of the Battle of Prestonpans, and the evolution of Scotland, has designed the 150 separate panels which will make up the new piece.

Groups of stitchers in 25 different countries – including China, India, Canada, the United States, Australia, Sweden, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands and France – are creating the different embroidered sections by hand, some of which have been completed already.

The project, instigated as part of the 2014 Year of Homecoming, has been some two years in development. The finished work, which will feature a series of 50x50cm panels, is expected to be 90 metres long.

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Tay Bridge disaster memorials unveiled

Scotsman article published on Saturday 28th December 2013

Two memorials to commemorate the people who died in the Tay Bridge disaster have been unveiled to mark the 134th anniversary of the tragedy. The identical 8ft-tall granite memorials were erected on either side of the River Tay yesterday. They name the 59 people known to have died when the bridge collapsed during a violent storm on the evening of 28 December, 1879.

The train in which they were travelling plunged in to the Tay, killing everyone on board. The Tay Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust unveiled the first of the £35,000 memorials at Wormit Bay, in Fife. Historian David Swinfen, former vice-principal of Dundee University and chair of the Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust, paid tribute to the people killed in the tragedy.

The memorial was unveiled by David Leighton, the great-grandson of train driver David Mitchell, and Jim Marshall, the grand-nephew of the train’s fireman, John Marshal. They were among 30 descendants of the victims who attended the event.

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What Scots towns looked like before photography

Scotsman article published on Saturday 28th December 2013

Examining old photographs of our villages, towns and cities can unlock vital clues to the histories of our urban landscapes. Recognisable buildings and landmarks connect us to the past, while unfamiliar details – shop signs which have long since been painted over, old vehicles, blurred figures in period clothing – give us an insight into the lives of the people who walked our streets before us.

But what of the days before photography, the years before the camera’s lens captured buildings since demolished and streetscapes since altered? A new book, Painting the Town: Scottish Urban History in Art gathers together, for the first time, a visual record of contemporary images of Scotland’s towns and townspeople before photography, offering key insights into our urban heritage.

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Expert argues Vikings carried redhead gene to Scotland

Scotsman article published on Sunday 24th November 2013

The Viking warriors who invaded Scotland in the eighth century may have harboured a fiery secret beneath their horned helmets. According to a leading academic the Norse invaders depicted in film and history books as rugged blonds were in fact ginger. The contentious theory could explain the auburn enigma that has long baffled scientists – why do so many Scots have red hair?

Professor Donna Heddle, director of the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Centre for Nordic Studies, believes the answer lies in a genetic gift from our Viking ancestors. She argues that the Norse were much more likely to have been red-headed than blond and that they were responsible for transforming Scotland into the world’s ginger capital.

“The perception that the Norse were blond is nothing more than a prevalent myth,” she said. “Genetically speaking, the chances of them having blond hair weren’t that likely. The chances are that they would have had red hair. Interestingly, if you look at where red hair occurs in the world you can almost map it to Viking trading routes.”

While only about 0.6 per cent of the world’s population has red hair, around 13 per cent of Scots have rust-coloured locks, with an estimated further 40 per cent carrying the recessive redhead gene.

Famous flame-haired Scots include actors Ewan McGregor and Karen Gillan, singer Shirley Manson, Mary Queen of Scots, Scottish national football coach Gordon Strachan, and of course Willie, the cantankerous school janitor from The Simpsons.

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Lost Edinburgh: Register House

Scotsman article published on Monday 28th October 2013

Prior to the construction of Register House, Scotland’s public records were stored in a rather haphazard fashion within the unsuitable confines of Parliament House in the heart of the Old Town. Exposed regularly to both damp and vermin, the national archives were said to be in a ‘perishing condition’ and it was abundantly clear that alternative accommodation was required. The idea of finding a permanent home for the country’s public records had been around since the Treaty of Union in 1707 when Scotland was guaranteed that it would be allowed to keep hold of them. Sadly, lack of significant finance meant that many years would pass before the register office could become a reality.

Plans put in place

After decades of waiting, a government grant of £12,000, earned from the sale of forfeited Jacobite estates, was made available in 1765 to commence with the building of ‘a proper repository’. Within four years a location directly opposite the northern end of the soon-to-be-completed North Bridge was agreed upon. The site was gifted to the Register House Trustees by the city as it was thought that a grand new public building would encourage development in Edinburgh’s New Town.

In 1772 the distinguished Robert Adam was assigned the role as architect for the ambitious project. Having been appointed Architect of the King’s Works with responsibility for Scotland in 1761, Robert Adam was a master of his profession and highly revered across the nation. Adam, assisted by his younger Edinburgh-based brother, managed to maintain a tight control over the beautifully proportioned neoclassical design of Register House – despite working from his office in London. Adam’s impressive 50 ft wide central domed rotunda inspired by the Pantheon in Rome is regarded as the finest feature of the building’s interior.

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Launch of the Property Valuation Rolls for 1920 – 28 October 2013

ScotlandsPeople Newsletter published on Monday 28th October 2013

Scottish Valuation Rolls for 1920

We’re delighted to announce that the Valuation Rolls (VRs) for 1920 have just been added to the ScotlandsPeople website.

The new records, comprising 2,607,329 indexed names and 76,721 digital images (taken from 169 volumes), cover every kind of property that was assessed in 1920 as having a rateable value, and provide a fascinating snapshot of Scottish society in the wake of the First World War.

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Peep into the past can build bridges

Scotsman article published on Wednesday 9th October 2013

Dovetailing business with pleasure could prove an important way to maximise ancestral tourism’s potential   says George MacKenzie.

In today’s changing world, more and more people are seeking an answer from their ancestors. Online access to millions of demographic records is fuelling a surge of interest in ancestral research. But for many, this is only the start of the journey. They want to find the names and dates of their families, then they want to follow in their footsteps. That gives us a great opportunity to bring more visitors to Scotland. With Homecoming 2014 just around the corner and over 50 ancestral and clan-related events already in the programme, the timing couldn’t be better.

Ancestry is the sleeping giant of Scottish tourism. Recent research for VisitScotland shows ancestral tourists already pump over £100 million a year into the economy, and there is potential to grow this market substantially, up to £2.5 billion. Ancestral visitors are especially important because they come over a longer season, stay longer and spend more. To realise the full potential of ancestral tourism, we need to engage accommodation providers, tour companies, heritage properties, tartan suppliers.

We must train staff to understand the needs of ancestral visitors and ensure the welcome visitors get is consistent, coherent and high quality. That is the refreshed remit of the Ancestral Tourism Steering Group (ATSG) which I have recently begun chairing, supported by VisitScotland.

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Value in preserving our recorded history

Scotsman article published on Wednesday 9th October 2013

Our business archives span four centuries, with over 6,000 sets of records. Our family history related records are worth £100 million a year in ancestral tourism income. Institutions from the National Records of Scotland to local archives services hold millions of pieces of information that tell the story of Scotland and its people, from warrior kings to school dinner ladies.

The digital revolution of the last two decades presents Scotland with a unique opportunity. As archives are dusted down from shelves and captured online, we have the chance to build a digital legacy that will enrich generations to come. As William Kilbride, executive director of the Digital Preservation Coalition, said recently: “Data is the new oil. It is the emerging infrastructure for industry, science, government, law, health, the creative industries and our personal life. But it is fragile”.

Everyone with an interest in protecting Scotland’s growing digital archives, and crucially, having them accessible over time, needs to work together to get the technology right and secure sufficient investment to nurture these important national assets.

This week, the Scottish Council on Archives is holding an exhibition and reception in the Scottish Parliament to highlight the challenges, and opportunities, that lie ahead.

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Call to help transcribe historic Scottish records

Scotsman article published on Tuesday 3rd September 2013

A call has been issued to enlist thousands of volunteers to help transcribe more than one million historic Scottish records.

The Transcribe ScotlandsPlaces is the biggest crowd-sourcing project of its kind in Scotland and will focus on more than one million records of people and places dating from 1645 to 1880.

This includes more than 150,000 pages of old handwriting in Scots, English and Gaelic detailing information about land taxation; taxes on clocks, windows and farm horses as well as Ordnance Survey “name books” which were part of the first official record of Scottish places and place names.

It is hoped the information processed as part of this project, one of the first of its kind in the UK, will boost knowledge and understanding of Scotland and its people.

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It’s all in the genes for Melrose firm

Borders Telegraph article published on Tuesday 3rd September 2013

Specialist DNA ancestry testing company The Moffat Partnership has launched two new products for anyone who is interested in finding out more about their family history, identity and heritage – thanks to a helping hand from RBS.

The innovative Melrose-based company was started at the end of 2011 by Alistair Moffat and Jim Wilson to offer a unique mix of history with science after the pair collaborated on a book called The Scots: A Genetic Journey.  They realised that there was a real demand for a company that combined science with history and set up ScotlandsDNA.com offering DNA analysis from a simple saliva sample to give a “genetic signature” that goes back beyond written records and family trees.

The company hit the headlines at the end of last year when their services were used by the BBC to produce a programme starring comedian Eddie Izzard, called Meet the Izzards.  Additionally, their work recently provided evidence that Prince William has some Indian ancestry.

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Cleared to return: Kildonan clearances marked

BBC article published on Monday 12th August 2013

Descendents of people evicted in the notorious Kildonan clearances in Sutherland are attending a ceremony to mark the 200th anniversary of the event.

On 12 August 1813, 96 people left Helmsdale on a ship bound for Canada after being forced from their homes in the Strath of Kildonan.

Two hundred years later, Monday night’s commemoration is part of a two-week programme which has attracted visitors from all over the world.

Clearances of agricultural tenants to make way for sheep happened throughout the Highlands and Islands and even in the Borders during the early 19th century but the violent evictions in the Strath of Kildonan were among the worst.

More than 1,000 people were cleared from the area and forced to take up fishing on the coast, move to towns and cities or emigrate to the colonies.

The tactic of estate managers working for the Duke and Countess of Sutherland was simply to burn their tenants’ cottages, barns and pasture to prevent those being evicted from returning.

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Scots firms urged to benefit from ancestral tourism

Scotsman article published on Tuesday 30th July 2013

Scottish businesses are being urged to tap into the opportunities posed by ancestral tourism – which it is claimed has the potential to boost the economy by £2.4billion.

Tourism Intelligence Scotland has published a new guide aimed at helping firms take advantage of the growing sector, particularly in the run up to 2014 when Scotland welcomes the World for Homecoming, the Ryder Cup and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

The guide, which is based on ancestral tourism research commissioned by VisitScotland, shows that some 10 million people worldwide with Scottish roots are interested in finding out more about their ancestry, with around two-fifths of these planning to visit the country in the next two years.

The study shows the sector has the potential to grow significantly in the next five years, from the current 800,000 visitors per year to 4.3 million visitors.

Based on these figures, the opportunity for businesses to capitalise on these visitors is estimated at £2.4billion in additional revenue.

The guide has been launched today at the National Archives of Scotland by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney.

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Businesses to benefit from ‘ancestral tourism’ from independence debate

STV article published on Monday 30th July 2013

Businesses can benefit from the rise in “ancestral tourism” that is expected to flow from Scotland’s increased international profile in the independence campaign, according to Finance Secretary John Swinney.

Tourists researching their roots stay twice as long in Scotland and spend “significantly more per day” than other tourists, according to research by VisitScotland.

Mr Swinney made the comments as he launched a guide for businesses on ancestral tourism at National Archives of Scotland.

The US is Scotland’s biggest potential market with an estimated 9.4m Scottish descendants, followed by the rest of the UK at 7.6m and Canada at 4.7m, according to the guide.

But Scotland only attracted 11,000 ancestry hunters from the US last year, who spent £13m, compared with 36,000 Canadians who spent £34m and 133,000 Britons who spent £36m.

Mr Swinney said: “Scotland is very much in the news right now, and it’s going to be even more in the news as we approach the referendum. So I think this will trigger a lot of people to want to find out more about their connections within Scotland.

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Scotland urged to refocus on genealogy tourism

Scotsman article published on Sunday 25th November 2012

Whoever they think they are they deserve the red carpet treatment for a new study estimates people searching for their roots will be worth ­­­£2.4 billion to Scotland over the next five years.

The potential of so-called ancestral tourism has been outlined in a report by consultants TNS, which estimates a potential market of 50 million people of Scottish ancestry.

But services need to be improved if Scotland is to cash in, including promoting existing research facilities, specialist tour operators and the creation of budget “genealogy packages”.

VisitScotland asked TNS to assess the market and plan for an expected influx ahead of the 2014 Year of Homecoming, when Scotland will also host the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and golf’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

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Census: 1911 v 2011

BBC article published on 1st February 2011

Next month, the UK will do its most thorough census yet. A century ago, a new expanded form was evidence of a government’s thirst for knowledge in their efforts to help a population stricken by poverty, bad nutrition and high infant mortality.

There are many differences between the 1911 and 2011 census.

That of a hundred years ago was able to fit on a single sheet. Today’s is likely to be about 30 pages long.

That of 1911 might be regarded as sexist, implying that if there was a husband in the household he would be head of it. And its language on infirmity, asking householders if they were “lunatic, imbecile or feeble-minded”, would be unlikely to pass muster with today’s disability campaigners.

Click here to read the full article.


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